Sakaka to Tabuk

Sakaka has a long history, having been inhabited for at least four thousand years. You wouldn’t really know it now, as there is little evidence of anything more than a few decades old to see. The city has been expanding and modernising quickly. A friend suggested that I check out a location noted for flint arrowheads and axes, so I waited for first light before braving the cold morning air. The bike ice warning was flashing and displaying a temperature of just 2°C. It gets cold up north apparently. The record is -7°C. Hard to imagine in Saudi. 

In Thaj, the other ancient settlement I visit from time to time, the department of antiquities have fenced off the site to prevent treasure hunters from pillaging the area. Here in Sakaka, they have found another way to protect the archeology. I guess that it will make for some other interesting finds in another four thousand years. 

I suspect they don’t get many English motorcyclists in Sakaka, because I drew a crowd at the petrol station. Muad was just one of the people who invited me to drink tea with him today. 

Leaving Sakaka, and the thousands of olive trees, I was surprised how quickly the landscape changed. I climbed onto a high, arid plateau, almost completely without features or vegetation. At one point I stopped to pee; the horizon was miles away in all directions, the land barren and bleak, nothing.  In a hundred miles I came across but three small villages, each preceded by a sign warning that I was about to enter an inhabited area. Only one of them boasted a restaurant. 

Eventually the land developed more character as I neared Tabuk. The odd municipal sculpture, like this giant basket of fruit appeared, and jebels began to rise from the gravel plains. 

It looks like I have an oil spill. Actually it is a melted tar snake. 

Seriously? An artificial basket of fruit? I also saw giant coffee pots, artificial trees, rainbow grass and many other things so odd they left me scratching my head. 

Tabuk is a big city in comparison to the villages I’ve been travelling through. After a quite delicious nap, I ran around the town causing drivers to swerve alarmingly as they were distracted from their mobile phones. Not many foreigners with white hair running around the streets in Tabuk it would seem. 

I thought Tabuk’s newly finished mosque to be rather spectacular. Below are photos of the view from my bedroom window and my journey so far. Today’s track is green. Tomorrow I’m heading for Yanbu. I’d planned on dropping by Madain Saleh, but the hotel says I need a permit. I’m sure I’ll find something else interesting instead. 


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